May 18, 2022

SafAle™ WB-06: Give the character you want to your wheat beer styles

Homebrewing and brewing are a matter of choice. A choice of ingredients -- hops, yeast, malt, and water -- if we stick to the classics. You also have a choice of process: mashing regime, fly or batch sparging, boiling duration, hopping regime, yeast pitching rate, fermentation temperature, etc. These choices are what makes our hobby so fascinating. Each homebrewer is different and even each batch can be different if we want. Obviously, changing ingredients is a relatively easy choice, but only by playing with your brewing parameters, can we totally rediscover a recipe. The combination of variables is endless!

There is a lot more to say and discover in each step of the brewing process, but because yeast is the topic of this article, let’s focus here on the fermentation parameters. And because fermentation arrives at the end of the process, all the choices you make will predetermine many things. With your yeast in hand, you can play with two main variables:

  • Pitching rate: the quantity of yeast you’ll put in your wort can impact the type of flavors produced, and
  • Fermentation temperature: the temperature you choose for your yeast can also impact your beer, especially the aromas produced.

In this period of spring in the Northern hemisphere, with temperatures rising, it’s a great time to enjoy refreshing and drinkable beers, especially wheat beer styles. Let’s take a deeper look at a yeast specifically selected for wheat beers, SafAle™ WB-06.

Produced by Fermentis, SafAle™ WB-06 delivers well attenuated beers (an apparent attenuation between 86 and 90%) and is ideal for wheat-based beers, such as Belgian and German styles (Wit Beers, Weizen, etc.). Today the portfolio of wheat beer styles is not limited to the “traditional European styles”, and the yeast must adapt. SafAle™ WB-06 fits the bill because it can provide fruity and/or phenolic characters to your beer.

Backing up a bit, our SafAle™ BE-134 yeast is a Saccharomyces cerevisiae var. diastaticus, which means the yeast naturally releases certain enzymes in the extra-cellular media, such as the Amyloglucosidase (AMG), that are capable of degrading most of the sugars present during the fermentation. We told you more about this yeast strain species in this article. Considering the “diastaticus character” of SafAle™ WB-06, you’ll be able to reach a high attenuation, but you have to give it time to work. Fermentis has determined that it could take more than 10 days in specific conditions to finish the fermentation with SafAle™ WB-06 (see chart below). Patience is the key with this yeast. If you bottle-condition too soon with added sugar, you can over-carbonate your beers and risk bottle bombs.

SafAle WB-06 Apparent Attentuation Chart

The first variable to discuss is the pitching rate with this yeast and its impact on your beer. With SafAle™ WB-06 a lower pitching rate will allow you to produce more esters, especially isoamyl acetate which is responsible for the banana notes. This characteristic is desirable if you want to brew a Weizen for example with moderately strong banana notes. By always staying within Fermentis' dosage recommendations, a pitching rate of 50g/hL (1.9g/gal) is appropriate here. (Editor's note: 1 Hectoliters (hL) = 26.4 US gallons). On the other hand, a higher pitching rate of 80g/hL (3g/gal) will reduce ester production and favor a better appreciation of the phenolic notes. This is appropriate for some versions of Witbier in combination with spice additions like coriander.

The second tool for the homebrewer is the fermentation temperature. Here again your choice will orient the yeast profile. With SafAle™ WB-06 fermented at lower temperature (18-22°C / 64-71°F), contrary to what you might expect, you’ll orient the yeast on the “ester side”. At higher temperatures (22-26°C / 71-79°F), you’ll be more on the phenol side. Our general advice:

  • Orient SafAle™ WB-06 on the “fruity side”: low pitching rate at lower temperature (in the limit of Fermentis recommendations)
  • Orient SafAle™ WB-06 on the “phenolic side”: high pitching rate at higher temperature (in the limit of Fermentis recommendations)

Always keep in mind that these general understandings are the result of Fermentis' experiments with specific malts, hops, and water profiles. As we said in the introduction, the combination of variables is endless so you must take these recommendations as the compass but the final direction you’ll take remains your call. If you want more information about SafAle™ WB-06 you can visit the Fermentis website or contact the Fermentis team directly!

In addition, you can find SafAle™ WB-06 in many Northern Brewer kits. The Fermentis team offers some tips on how to use this yeast in these different kits.

Honey Weizen

  • Fermentis tips: “Honey and spice notes are usually a good combination in brewing or cooking, for this reason we would recommend a high pitching rate to orient more SafAle™ WB-06 on the phenolic side, clove notes you could obtain would be very interesting in your final beer!”
Raspberry Wheat
    • Fermentis tips: “Raspberry is already an interesting and powerful aroma, and it’s the heart of this recipe. It’s not necessary to bring too much complexity around it, balance is the key here. To do that, stay in the middle of our general recommendations for SafAle™ WB-06, you’ll obtain flavors of banana esters with only faint clove phenolics.”
    Bavarian Hefeweizen and Hank's Hefeweizen
    • Fermentis tips: “These two kits have more or less the same objective: produce a traditional Hefeweizen. If we follow this definition, banana and cloves notes should be moderately strong in flavor but they must be well balanced. Traditional logic would advise to stay in the average of our fermentation recommendations, but you also have to consider the composition of your wort. In Hefeweizen recipes, wheat malt represents more than 50% of the wort and wheat is rich in ferulic acids, the precursor which will allow the yeast to produce phenolic notes in your beer. To balance this phenolic side, we would advise you a low pitching rate for SafAle™ WB-06 and ferment at lower temperature like 70°F. By doing that you’ll arrive at the end at a good balance between banana and clove.”


    • Fermentis tips: “The high percent of rye instead of wheat in Roggenbier recipe will already bring you unique spicy depth of flavors beyond the traditional Hefeweizen. We can describe these flavors as bready or peppery. In this kind of beer, the balance between estery and phenolic side can vary, there is no specific recommendation so it’s up to you to choose what you prefer. Personally, I think that the perception of banana notes, without being too strong, are interesting in the aftertaste and complement well the spicy notes brought by the rye. For this reason, I would recommend a low pitching rate, around 50-60 g/hL (1.9-2.3g/gal.)"
      • Fermentis tips: “Dunkelweizen is a similar story to the Hefeweizen -- most of the time we’re looking a good balance between banana and clove notes. The difference here is that you also have to consider the use of specialty malts such as Dark Munich or Caramunich. Because these malts have very aromatic profiles, they can sometimes mask the clove impression. To accentuate the clove notes and re-establish the balance, we recommend a high pitching rate around 80g/hL (3g/gal) with warmer fermentation temperature around 74°F.”

      Special thanks to the Fermentis team, especially Hugo Picard, for this article!

       Hugo Picard, Fermentis technical sales manager Technical Sales Manager for the home segment at Fermentis. Hugo graduated with a Master’s in Science and Agricultural Engineering specializing in Marketing from ISA Lille in France. He also acquired a Master’s degree in International Marketing and Communication at Lille University. Before joining Fermentis, Hugo has been president of a brewing and winemaking association and worked in several breweries and brewpubs in France and New Zealand as a brewer or as a marketing/communication associate.